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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

STEFAN   GEORGE   AND   HIS   CIRCLE                123

there. His pedigree has been carefully traced, and it is claimed
that he was of pure German blood1: he had 'brownish golden'
hair and pale blue eyes like turquoises. His early environment is
assumed by his biographers to have influenced the spirit of his
work in two directions: his sense of architectural construction,
seen in the symmetrical shaping of his volumes of verse, and that
unbending hardness and even cruelty which made him a literary
dictator and eliminated all tenderness from his work are attributed
to an atavistic imprint of the old Roman colonization of his home-
land,2 while to the Roman Catholic pomp and ceremonial of the
Rhineland he instinctively owed his pose as poet-priest and the
symbolistic ritual of his freethinking. These tendencies, we are
told, were so deeply inherited in him that they surged up from his
inner consciousness and were born anew, instead of being a cul-
tured revival such as informs neo-hellenism and romanticism.
Whereas the neo-hellenists have shown their literary affiliation by
outward signs such as the use of Greek metres, George's every
nerve tingles atavistically with the essential spirit of Hellas: the
deification of the body and the embodiment of the deity (die Ver-
gottung des I^eibes und die Verleibung des Gottes). (Da h&ret ouch geloube
%uo, as Walther von der Vogelweide remarked; but faith is re-
quired for any appreciation of George.) At the Realschule at Bin-
gen George did best in languages; Italian he learnt out of school.
At the age of fourteen he entered the Ludwig-Georg Gymnasium
at Darmstadt. Here in 1886 his juvenilia, some preserved in Die
Fibel, begin; already the influence of Italian poets - Petrarch and
Tasso - is giving austerity to his form. He learnt Norwegian to
read Ibsen; and indeed when he left school in 1888 foreign lan-
guages had laid such a spell on him that his father agreed that he
should fit his career to this main interest. He went to London, and
what appealed to him in his stay there is indicated in his poem
Von einer Reise 1888-89 *n Die Fibe/, while Die Glocken, one sus-
pects, imitates rhythmically the chimes of some London church.
Thereafter he stayed for a time in Montreux, and thence went to
Italy and Paris, where he made friends with one of the standard-
bearers of the young symbolist movement, Albert Saint-Paul. This

1  But Josef Nadler (Literaturgeschicbte der deuischen Stamme und "Landscbafieri)
insists that George's father was a Walloon, and that his mother came from
Lorraine. See also Frau Ida Dehmel, 'Derj/mge Stefan George* > Berliner Tageblatt,
July ist, 1935: 'DieFamilie Georges tst fran^psischen Ursprmgs\

2  See his poems Porta Nzgra and Ursprunge (in Der shbmte Ring}.